Scouting report: Inside the Dolphins
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The Vikings welcome the first of their AFC East opponents to the Metrodome on Sunday. Sam Monson from ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down film from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Miami Dolphins:
Miami rolls into town with an offense that only accounted for one touchdown in their first game against the Bills, but it's a unit that is well-balanced and effective. RBs Ronnie Brown (6-foot, 230 pounds) and Ricky Williams (5-10, 230) remain one of the league's most effective pairings, gaining yardage behind an extremely strong offensive line. Miami runs behind a power, man-up blocking scheme, and they often use one or more tight ends in the blocking. When they pass, they can attack all levels of the field with WR Davone Bess (5-10, 190) working underneath the coverage and WR Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230) threatening deep.
The Dolphins "D" is young, but improving. They run a base 3-4, plus an ever-expanding list of pass-rushing subpackages, with various players putting their hands on the ground to act as rush linemen. They run a lot of Cover-1 on the back end. SS Yeremiah Bell (6-0, 205) is much more effective as an in-the-box safety, leaving FS Chris Clemons (6-1, 210) to cover the deep ball over the top. With Bell's limitations in coverage and prowess in the box, they are also quick to go to nickel packages that bring an extra safety onto the field, dropping the nose tackle to the bench.
The Dolphins offense can cause problems for a Vikings secondary still bearing the weight of injury. Marshall is a physically dominant player and a constant threat to break tackles, turning modest plays into game-changers. Bess acts as a Wes Welker-type outlet for QB Chad Henne (6-3, 230), working underneath and in between zones and keeping the chains moving. The Vikings will also need to ensure they don't go to sleep on TE Anthony Fasano (6-4, 255). Known primarily for his blocking, Fasano is capable of attacking down the seams in the passing game, and can hurt teams if they don't play him honestly.
On defense, the Dolphins have a couple of pass-rushers who could cause particular problems for Minnesota. LOLB Koa Misi (6-3, 251) and ROLB Cameron Wake (6-3, 250) are both smaller, speedy pass-rushers capable of challenging the bigger Vikings offensive tackles. Wake in particular applied pressure at a staggering rate last season -- he recorded pressure once every 4.0 snaps on which he rushed the passer -- and is the type of pass-rusher Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie has always struggled with. Wake was prevented from earning more snaps last season because he was seen as a liability against the run, and this should be the focus of the Vikings. Unlike New Orleans, Miami has players in the secondary that invite challenge. Clemons will be playing single-high safety a lot and has yet to demonstrate he can make those plays.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In LT Jake Long (6-7, 317) and RT Vernon Carey (6-5, 340), the Dolphins might have the top tackle pairing in the NFL. Both players are dominant run-blockers and extremely capable pass-blockers, giving Vikings DEs Jared Allen and Ray Edwards a much sterner test than last week.
The Miami pass rush might not be fearsome by league standards yet, but it matches up particularly well with the Vikings' massive tackles. McKinnie and RT Phil Loadholt both have struggled in the past against quicker pass-rushers. Neither Misi nor Wake has demonstrated he can withstand the onslaught of defending the run for a full game. though, and this is their potential weakness Both players give up more than 80 pounds to the Vikings' offensive tackles.
On the edge, Miami's corners have all shown a propensity for giving up big plays at times. Their three returning cornerbacks -- Vontae Davis (5-11, 203), Sean Smith (6-3, 214) and Jason Allen (6-1, 200) -- each gave up a 100-plus QB rating to opposing passers targeting their coverage in 2009, and with the amount of Cover-1 and Cover-3 they run, that's certainly an area the Vikings should test. Depth along the defensive line is also a concern for a Miami side already leaning heavily on youth. If the Vikings can establish the run early and lean on their big men, it could pay dividends later in the game.
The Dolphins provide an interesting challenge for the Vikings. They are a tough team with very few holes, and they can provide some matchup problems. But they also have some potential weaknesses that should play into Minnesota's hands if they are willing to try and exploit them.